Short Stories from the School for Damaged Children

Deep oppression pervades Brian Booker’s collection of seven stories Are You Here for What I’m Here For? (Bellevue Literary Press, 2016). The mood is confining, suffocating, maddening, the writing evocative of a heart pulsing beneath the floorboards of a cabin far from anywhere. Booker awakens---allays---awakens---allays---and awakens again profound tensions: Something is wrong. Everything is ok. But something is … Continue reading Short Stories from the School for Damaged Children

Memoir: Set This Submarine on Fire

Memoir’s a tough genre. For memoir to appeal to a broad audience its got to succeed in one of two ways. Either the voice asserts some irresistible quality: rich, engaging, dynamic, inspiring, insightful without being pedantic. Or the narrative relates circumstances of an extraordinary nature: the subject is a half-Kenyan young lawyer who rises to … Continue reading Memoir: Set This Submarine on Fire

Peace Corps Writer Awards for 2016

A few notable works recognized with various Peace Corps Writer Awards for 2016. Next week the Peace Corps community will gather in Washington, DC for Peace Corps Connect to celebrate the agency's 55 years. Activities will include panels and workshops featuring Peace Corps Writers. More. The Maria Thomas Fiction Award for 2016 (named after novelist Maria … Continue reading Peace Corps Writer Awards for 2016

Infidelities for Valentine’s Day

It’s just like Michael Hemmingson to be gone. Just when I wanted to thank him for his black Valentine’s Day messages. There’s a world of hurt in his collection Pictures of Houses with Water Damage (Black Lawrence Press, 2010). It’s a numbed kind of hurt, the kind of pain felt after a breakup, whether you wanted to … Continue reading Infidelities for Valentine’s Day

Writers at Rest

Taking a break from producing fiction? A couple of reads that offer ridiculous, pathetic, sad, witty, funny--fun--looks at the fiction-writer's life include The Visiting Writer, a short story from Matthew Vollmer's collection Gateway to Paradise, and Chris Belden's novel, Shriver. The Visiting Writer delivers us into the world of literary aspiration, a lament on the lack of success, a self examination, … Continue reading Writers at Rest

Review: Gateway to Paradise

The six stories in Matthew Vollmer’s Gateway to Paradise (Persea books) plow dark furrows across the landscape, furrows at once unified yet unique, parallel channels promising individual reward. The unifying darkness is subtle, distinct, reassuring in its way. It is a darkness that blooms rather than dooms, mesmerizes rather than terrifies, reveals rather than obscures. As for … Continue reading Review: Gateway to Paradise

Time to Write

Blog entries about writing I enjoy most treat the craft as work. Those I enjoy least lament a thing called writer's block. For all those writers who suffer some form of blockage, I submit this photo from 2007. This neurotic-looking ledger of hours and minutes was my go-to mechanism for avoiding "the block." I used it … Continue reading Time to Write

Peace Corps Retrospective

A compilation of posts recalling my Peace Corps service in Malawi (1996-1998). Crossing Paths with Paul Theroux in Malawi I’ve always felt a strong connection Paul Theroux, due largely to our shared legacy as Peace Corps Volunteers in Malawi. When I expressed reluctance about taking an assignment teaching English there in the 90s, the recruiter suggested I read My Secret … Continue reading Peace Corps Retrospective

CURRY PATTA, JUNGLE OATS, AND PEACE CORPS

My wife keeps a curry plant to flavor her beautiful Indian cooking. Our boys have taken to snapping off the greenest leaves and eating them raw. Their chewing fills the air with a sharp, fresh scent. Yesterday, the plant was brought indoors—frost—to spend the night on our low kitchen table. When the boys found it … Continue reading CURRY PATTA, JUNGLE OATS, AND PEACE CORPS

CURRY PATTA, JUNGLE OATS, AND PEACE CORPS

My wife keeps a curry plant to flavor her beautiful Indian cooking. Our boys have taken to snapping off the greenest leaves and eating them raw. Their chewing fills the air with a sharp, fresh scent. Yesterday, the plant was brought indoors—frost—to spend the night on our low kitchen table. When the boys found it … Continue reading CURRY PATTA, JUNGLE OATS, AND PEACE CORPS